Dr Tony Bartone - Today Show - COVID-19, PPE masks, private hospitals

30 Mar 2020

Transcript:   AMA President, Dr Tony Bartone, Nine Network, Today Show with Karl Stefanovic and Allison Langdon,  Monday, 30 March 2020

Subject:  Government response to COVID-19, PPE masks, private hospitals

ALLISON LANGDON: Dr Bartone is President of the Australian Medical Association. He joins us now. We just heard from the Health Minister, millions more masks, more testing kits. What do you make of today's announcement?

TONY BARTONE: The announcement is obviously a welcome one. It's about the importance of ensuring that, at the frontline, we've got that additional PPE, that protective equipment, that additional ability to keep testing. We have got really high rates of testing in the community compared to other countries. But we do need to go deeper, we do need to test further, and ensure that we keep ahead of the curve. The news yesterday of all of that other additional investment, and all the other measures that we've implemented in terms of social distancing, is showing some early, early, perhaps good news in terms of the reduction in the rate of that curve. But we've still got a lot more to do and we all need to, together as a community, adhere to the advice and do each and every one of our bits to try and make that happen.

KARL STEFANOVIC: We just heard from the Health Minister in regards to this deal that may or may not be happening today in regards to private hospitals. It seems to me - and this is just from my rudimentary understanding of things but also from the sidelines - that some private hospitals are doing their best to hold the Government to ransom in all of this, saying that they're going to close their doors, they can't afford to keep open because elective surgery has been postponed or delayed, or not allowed to happen at all. Are we close to a deal with that, and what do you think about some of these hospitals holding the Government to ransom?

TONY BARTONE: Karl, I understand that, right through the weekend, everyone has been on the phone, meeting and talking and doing their bit to try and ensure an agreement, an understanding of cooperation and collaboration to keep the system as best resourced and as fully functional as possible.

There's no way we can afford to lose all those beds, in particular to lose all those ICU beds and indeed the staff there, those valuable doctors and nurses at this time as we approach an increasing crisis.

And it's not a case of suddenly trying to be holding anyone to ransom. It's understanding that each State and Territory control the public hospital system in their State or Territory. They need to work together as a partnership. They've done so before at different times in the past on local, case by case basis. Now they need to really ramp up and get that cooperation together.

We've got to keep the industry together and functional. You can't just turn it off and on when you need it. And so, by turning off elective surgery completely, which is their major, major source of revenue, and then expect that everybody is just going to be ready and willing and able. Because this is a long fight against COVID-19. It's not next week, it's not just next month, but it's for many months to come.

KARL STEFANOVIC: Gee, there's a lot on your plate at the moment. We appreciate your time today. Thank you for clarifying some of that, and let's hope a deal is done today because we don't need any health service, let alone a private hospital, closing its doors.

30 March 2020

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